10:30 PM EST, TNT – Line: Warriors -9.5, Over/Under: 205.5
With Game One now in the books, you’d be hard-pressed to imagine that the Golden State Warriors and the San Antonio Spurs ever met in last year’s Western Conference Finals, but then again, these are far from the same two teams competing in Game Two of the First Round of the Playoffs from ORACLE Arena in Oakland, California. Typically, this series would be must-see basketball, but thanks to a rather sizable absence, the Spurs (47-35, 7th in Western Conference) are a shell of the team that we’ve been accustomed to viewing for the better part of the past two decades. Then again, in the mad rush to secure one of the final few Seeds out West that had engulfed the NBA over the past two months, Gregg Popovich’s charges very nearly saw their hallowed record of Eighteen Consecutive Years with a Postseason Appearance finally come to a screeching halt. Fortunately, the dean of active Coaches was able to coax a final late-season burst to stretch that streak to Nineteen straight Years, winning Ten of their final Fifteen Contests in route to clinching the Seventh Seed, and a date with the team that has clearly supplanted them as the major power in the Western Conference. However, the general consensus is that this group will need something akin to a miracle to make it any further in these Playoffs due to the void left behind by Kawhi Leonard (16.2 PTS, 46.8% FG, 31.4% 3FG, 4.7 REB, 2.3 AST, 2.0 STL, 1.0 BLK, 26.0 PER), the gifted Swingman who has missed all but Nine Outings this with a variety of injuries. Simply put, this has been one of the more bizarre stories in the league, with Leonard at first missing time rehabbing an ankle injury suffered in last year’s Conference Finals, only to hit the Trainer’s Table once more with a partially torn Quadriceps, though if you listen to the Team Doctors (and by extension, Popovich), that the 2-Time Defensive Player of the Year has been cleared to return tot he hardwood for some time now. Either way, the fact remains that San Antonio remains without his services, and is much poorer for it, particularly against an opponent like the Warriors, but we all knew that, didn’t we? Let’s flashback to Game One of last year’s Western Finals, when the Spurs owned a commanding 26-Point Lead at Halftime, before Leonard landed on a (misplaced???) Zaza Pachulia foot, aggravating a tender ankle that would end his Postseason Campaign in merciless fashion. While we all know how that Series ended (GSW 4, SAS 0), if Game One was any indication, this meeting could be over just as quickly. Needless to say, the Visiting Side were completely overwhelmed in the 113-92 defeat, shooting a dismal 40.0% from the Field, while getting hammered on the Glass (Minus-17), and dishing out just Nineteen Assists in comparison to committing Thirteen Turnovers. Even with the Pace of the Contest slowed to a crawl (there were just Eleven combined Fast Break Points between them), the Visitors were completely manhandled in the Paint, where they were outscored 34-22. All-Star Forward LaMarcus Aldridge (23.1 PTS, 51.0% FG, 8.5 REB, 2.0 AST, 0.6 STL, 1.2 BLK, PER25.0 PER) was an afterthought for the most part, scoring just Fourteen Points on 5-of-12 Shooting (41.7%), with as many Turnovers as Rebounds (2), with the Starting Lineup as a whole accounting for just Thirty-Three Points. Clearly, this is something that needs to change in a hurry, for if Aldridge is going to be this ineffective when the game is being played predominantly in the half court, then how will he make any kind of impact when Golden State inevitably speeds things up?
Meanwhile, so much for the Warriors (58-24, 2nd in Western Conference) being in a funk, huh? Despite losing Ten of their final Seventeen Games heading into the Playoffs, and competing without the services of MVP Point Guard Steph Curry (26.4 PTS, 49.5% FG, 42.3% 3FG, 5.1 REB, 6.1 AST, 1.6 STL, 28.2 PER), Golden State has nonetheless relieved any concerns over just how fragile their state of being was as they look to power their way to a fourth consecutive NBA Finals, and Third NBA Championship in Four Years. However, if there is in fact one thing that can ultimately defeat thee guys (apart from a Draymond Green Suspension in Game Five of the 2016 Finals), it’s Injuries, which have played a huge role in their subpar performance over the final third of the Regular Season. At one point, Steve Kerr was without the likes of Curry, Kevin Durant (26.4 PTS, 51.6% FG, 41.9% 3FG, 6.8 REB, 5.4 AST, 0.7 STL, 1.8 BLK, 26.0 PER), Klay Thompson (20.0 PTS, 48.8% FG, 44.0% 3FG, 3.8 REB, 2.5 AST, 0.8 STL, 0.5 BLK, 16.1 PER), and Draymond Green (11.0 PTS, 45.4% FG, 30.1% 3FG, 7.6 REB, 7.3 AST, 1.4 STL, 1.3 BLK, 16.1 PER), which is basically 4/5 of the Starting Lineup. Curry, who has been relegated to just Fifty-One Games this year with a Sprained MCL has been gone since late March, and isn’t expected to return until the Western Conference Semifinals at the earliest. While this team is supremely talented with more than enough Depth to support their stars, there is no denying that they’re just not as special without the sharpshooting MVP terrorizing opponents from the perimeter; this season, the Dubs are just 17-14 with him outfitted in a suit. Fortunately, they have drew a favorable matchup with Spurs in the First Round, and even more so, they have Durant. Saturday’s 113-92 victory was never in doubt for the Home Side, who jumped out to a comfortable 28-17 lead at the end of the First Quarter, before ultimately taking the San Antonio to task at their own game. As we mentioned earlier, the Pace of Play was considerably slow, though that didn’t seem to bother the Hosts one bit, as the Warriors shot a blistering 54.3% from the Field, including 10-of-22 from beyond the Arc (45.5%), while dishing out a ridiculous Thirty-Two Assists in comparison to Fifteen Turnovers, while destroying the Visitors on the Offensive Glass (10-3). Five different players scored in Double-Figures, with Durant and Thompson outscoring their opponent’s Starting Lineup all by themselves, accounting for Fifty-One Points on 20-of-30 Shooting from the Floor (66.7%), including 6-of-10 from beyond the Arc (60.0%), along with Ten Rebounds, Nine Assists, and Three Steals. The key to this particular matchup was Kerr inserting the likes of veteran defensive-stopper Andre Iguodala (6.0 PTS, 46.3% FG, 28.2% 3FG, 3.8 REB, 3.3 AST, 0.8 STL, 0.6 BLK, 11.2 PER) and the seldom-used JaVale McGee (4.8 PTS, 62.1% FG, 2.6 REB, 0.5 AST, 0.3 STL, 0.9 BLK, 22.3 PER) into the Starting Lineup, creating arguably his best defensive Starting Five, which swarmed the undermanned Spurs early and throughout the night. McGee, who averaged just 9.5 Minutes over Sixty-Five Games this season, made the most of his minutes, proving to be impressive in nullifying the aforementioned Aldridge, while adding Fifteen Points on 5-of-7 Shooting (71.4%), Four Rebounds, a Steal, and a pair of Blocks.